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HISTORY OF ENOCH,
GENESIS V. 24.
And Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him.
THE regular and uniform dominion of the laws of nature, or the occasional suspension and alteration of them, are equally a proof of the being and provi dence of God. Whether the sun with uninterrupted speed continues to perform his daily and annual course; or whether he" stands still in Gibeon," or "goes back on the dial of Ahaz;" the interposition of the Most High is equally apparent, and equally to be adored. And why may not He, who has appointed unto all men, once to die," in order to make his power known, and his goodness felt, exhibit here and there an illustrious exemption from the power of the grave, and thereby vindicate his sovereign rights as the great arbiter and disposer of life and death.
To fallen Adam it was denounced, "Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return;" by one man "sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned;" But, behold the mortal sentence is remitted in favour of Enoch, the seventh from Adam; behold the order of nature is altered, the decree of Heaven is dispensed with; he is "translated without tasting of death." When an event, so entirely out of course, takes place, it is natural, and not unprofitable, to inquire into the causes of it; for when the issue is singular and uncommon, we justly conclude that the circumstances which led to it, were likewise singular and uncommon. The holy scriptures afford us, but sparingly, materials for a life, which concluded so very differently from that of other men; but what they have furnished, is striking and instructive.
The venerable father of the human race had now himself paid the debt of The curse of the broken law had been seen and felt in the unnatural and premature death of Abel; and was at length inflicted, in the departure of Adam, at the mature age of nine hundred and thirty years. The events which had hitherto taken place from the fall, were so many successive demonstrations of the justice of God; under the weight of which, men were, one after another, sinking into the grave. All that mercy had as yet done, was to grant a reprieve of forfeited life and death, though delayed to the thousandth year, is still bitterness in the end. We may reasonably suppose the faithful themselves to have been overwhelmed at the sight of so many vials of wrath, poured out from time to time on their guilty race: and that they were incapable of discovering the promises of favour and triumph, of life and immortality, through the obscure veil of that promise, "the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent." The sacrifice of Abel indeed discovered a faith in God, which raised the spirit above the fear and the stroke of death; and good men like him, would be led in their dying moments, with ho¬ Jy confidence and joy, to commit their departing souls to God, as unto a faith
ful Creator; but the body evidently returned to its dust, suffered corruption, and was dissolved. Religion accordingly furnished, as yet, but imperfectly, one of the most powerful motives which it proposes to bring men unto God, as "the rewarder of all them that diligently seek him." But at length he vouchsafes to unveil the invisible world; and shows it to be possible "for flesh and blood to inherit the kingdom of God." Within fifty-seven years from the time that Adam was laid in the dust, Enoch, without undergoing that change, passes immediately into the presence and paradise of God. And thus there was placed before the eyes of the church, and of the world, in that early period, an anticipated view and example of the final victory which the Messiah was at last to obtain over death, and all the other enemies of man's salvation.
Enoch, however illustrious and distinguished in his latter end, as well as by the superior sanctity of his life, came into the world in the usual manner, and fulfilled the duties of the ordinary relations of human life, while he continued in it. One great branch of holy walking with God, is useful walking among men. Having, to the proper period, lived in the obedience and subjection of a son, he in due time becomes the master of a family and a father; for Methuselah was born to him in the sixty-fifth year of his age, a period earlier than that at which any of the patriarchs, according to the record, became a parent, except his grandfather Mahalaleel. It is not the religion of God, which withdraws or excludes men from society; and teaches disrespect to the secular destinations of providence, or the relative obligations and connexions of life. No, it is the religion of Satan, which would represent as impure, what God declares pure, and permits to all, enjoins upon all; it is "a seducing spirit, and a doctrine of devils," which forbids to marry, "which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them who believe and know the truth." What, is a wretched solitary monk in his cell holier than Enoch, the father of a numerous family, who pleased God, so as to be rewarded with exemption from death, and with immediate admission into the kingdom of heaven? He who lives unconnected, wilfully contracts his sphere of being useful, and of doing good; he wickedly hides his talent in the ground; he robs God, his country, and his kindred, of services which they have a just right to expect from him.
Again, this holy man deserves our notice, as one of the great ancestors of the human race; as a link in the mighty chain of providence, which was gradually bringing on that eventful period, that fulness of time, when "the first-born among many brethren," last in order of succession, but first in dignity, should come for our salvation. Enoch was born in the year of the world six hundred and twenty-two. Adam died fifty-seven years before his translation. Of consequence they were contemporaries, or lived together, for no less a period than three hundred and eight years. Adam's whole stock of natural and divine knowledge might accordingly have been, and most probably was, communicated, by word of mouth, to Enoch, in so long a course of years: and much did he profit by a communication so important. And this, by the way, instructs us in one final cause of the longevity of the patriarchs in the antediluvian world. As there was then no written word, no transferable record of divine truth, all religious knowledge must have been greatly marred and impaired, if not entirely lost, in the rapid lapse of generations, reduced to the present short standard of half a century. But God graciously lengthened out life then to many centuries; whereby the father was enabled to instruct his posterity of the seventh or eighth generation, in the things which he himself had received immediately from the fountain of all truth and knowledge. Thus are the dispensations of Providence suited to the necessities of mankind; thus can God remedy every inconveniency, and make up every defect, in a way peculiar to himself. But to proceed,
Enoch was an illustrious person, not only in the church, but among the heathen. Eusebius, the famous ecclesiastical historian, who flourished and wrote in the fourth century of the christian era, quotes Eupolemus, a heathen author of credit, as affirming, that the Babylonians consider Enoch as the author of their astrology; and allege, that he is the same who is called Atlas by the Greeks, who, from his profound skill in natural objects, and particularly from his discoveries in astronomy, was hyperbolically said to sustain the heavens on his shoulders. The expression, "Enoch walked with God," is, in conformity to this opinion, interpreted of his close and intense application to the study of nature, and of the great additions to the public stock of acquired knowledge, which he made, in consequence of it. That this may warrantably be supposed to constitute one branch of "walking with God" we are not disposed to deny. The study of nature is honourable, pleasing, and inproving, and "the invisible things of God" may be clearly traced in "the things that are made." But had Enoch been merely a great naturalist, a sagacious astronomer, or a profound soothsayer, he had not been transmitted to future generations by a distinction so honourable and so uncommon; nor had his history merited so much of your attention as has already been bestowed upon it. Whether he was an adept in the science of nature or not, we know, upon the best authority, that he was a great "prophet;" for Jude the servant of Jesus Christ, in his general epistle, quotes him in that quality, in these words: "Enoch also the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all, that are ungodly among them, of their ungodly deeds, which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him."* Now it is no business of mine to inquire in what record Jude found this prophecy of Enoch; it is sufficient for my purpose that an Apostle of the Lord delivers it as such. Our purpose, is not to answer the objections, and refute the cavils of unbelievers, but, humbly to attempt to illustrate, enforce, and apply scripture truth, to those who receive the Bible as the word of God; as the guide of their faith, the source of their hope, and the rule of their life. From the prophecy itself, it is of importance to observe how early, and how powerfully the doctrine of a judgment to come was taught to the world. How clearly do those men discern, whose eyes are opened by the Spirit of the living God! How vast and how profound must that intelligence be, which can communicate, even to man, the foreknowledge of events the most remote; which revealed to Enoch, in the very infancy of the world, the awful day of its dissolution!
In this holy man it is apparent, that the grace of God's Spirit accompanied his gifts; the spirit of prophecy blended with the spirit of "faith, and love, and of a sound mind." Not like Balaam, who saw in prophetic vision, the star of Jacob arising, but in unbelief shut his eyes against its light; who descried things to come by the inspiration of the living God; but sottishly yielded homage to then: who are no gods; who lived a prophet, but died an idolator; not like Caiaphas, who, following the impulse of his own passions, and governed by the prejudice of a blinded mind, uttered a truth which he was not aware of; stumbled on a prediction which he was unknowingly, undesignedly, helping to fulfil But Enoch, impressed with the solemn truth which he preached to others, daily improved by it himself. How apt are men to err in this respect! They carnestly covet the gifts, which are dispensed but to a few, and are not always sanctified to the possesser; while they are careless about the graces which God is ever ready to bestow upon all, and which always accompany salvation. Let me possess, O God, an humble and
Jude, verse 14, 15.
a charitable spirit, though with the simplicity of a child, rather than "speak with the tongue of men or of angels," and be destitute of it.
This leads us to the interesting, important, and instructive part of Enoch's history, namely, his moral and religious character, expressed in these few but comprehensive words, "Enoch walked with God." Every thing else is transitory and fading. Youthful vigour and beauty are but the short-lived flowers of the spring, which die as soon as they are born; the honourable distinctions of this world are bubbles of empty air, which burst in a moment, and disappear forever; scientific researches and discoveries, are only the amusements of children, who know but in part, and see as "in a glass darkly ;" but holy walking with God is the honourable employment of a man; it is a permanent and perennial source of satisfaction: it is the essence of life; the cure of pain; the conquerer of death; the gate of immortality; it is heaven upon earth. And wherein does it consist? "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" No. Walking with God must therefore commence in reconciliation to God and scripture knows, acknowledges, teaches no other way of reconciliation but one. And the sacred commentator on the passage and character under review, lays down this great leading principle of religion, as the foundation of Enoch's holy conversation, and of the honours which he of consequence attained-" By faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death, and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."* Now, in every age of the world, faith has but one and the same object. From Abel down to the youngest of the prophets, and from the fisherman who left his nets, and his worldly all to follow Jesus, to the end of time, the being, the nature, and the will of God have been, and can be, savingly known, and the mercy of God savingly embraced, only through a Mediator.
On this foundation, what a superstructure of holiness may be raised! What gratitude, love, submission, and obedience to God! What complacency and delight in him! What kindness, compassion, forbearance, beneficence, and charity towards men! What gentleness, meekness, purity, peace; to adorn, to compose, to tranquilize, to bless the man himself! What constancy, perseverance, uniformity, increase in goodness! What venerability as a patriarch! What dignity as a sovereign! What sanctity as a priest! What respectability as a husband, a father, a master! What utility as a pattern and example! And such an one was Enoch; thus he lived and walked with God; and thus escaped death, that end of all men : "He was not, for God took him," This is the last memorable particular of his history. About the import of the words we can be at no loss, after the apostle has explained them, by his being "translated that he should not see death." With the manner of that translation we have nothing to do, as scripture is silent. If God intended it to be a public admonition or encouragement to the men of that generation, we may rest assured he gave full and satisfactory evidence concerning it. That he meant it to afford universal and everlasting instruction to mankind, it is impossible to doubt, from his giving it so honourable and so distinguished a place in his word. And what is the instruction which it administers to the world? Simply this, that a life of faith and holiness is but one remove from glory : that heaven descended to earth, will quickly raise men from earth to heaven : that death either averted, or overcome and destroyed, will at length open a passage to perfect union with God and enjoyment of him. Why should I de-. tain you, to relate the dreams of visionaries, and the fables of impostors, re
Hebrews xi, 5, 6.
specting the manner in which God disposed of Enoch after his assumption? There is no edification, and indeed but little amusement, in the bold fictions of a Mahomet, or the wild conjectures of a Jewish Rabbin. We acknowledge no other paradise, or habitation of the blessed, but that represented in scripture, as the place where God gives the brightest evidences of his gracious presence, and communicates his glory in full splendor. That, to which Jesus on the cross promised to conduct the penitent thief. That which Paul calls the third heaven and which in other places of the Bible is denominated HEAVEN, simply, and by way of excellency. Thither was Enoch taken; thither also did Elijah, two thousand one hundred and twenty-one years afterwards, mount on a chariot of fire, and the wings of a whirlwind; and finally, thither at length, in placid majesty, ascended the Captain of our salvation, "leading captivity captive."
Thus, in each of the three great periods of the church, was exhibited an instance of a man taken up into heaven, body and spirit, as a support and encouragement to the hope of believers, of attaining the same felicity. Enoch before the law was given; Elijah under the legal economy; and Jesus Christ, the Saviour of men, under the evangelical dispensation. And God, in conducting these events, has gradually disclosed life and immortality, from the dawning of the morning light, to the full glory of meridian splendour. It was a soothing, and an animating spectacle for the faithful of the first world to see a good man vanish away, and after living his period on earth, in piety, purity, and peace, lodged, not in a tomb, but in the bosom of God. It was yet a stronger presumption of immortality, to those who lived in the second period to see the heavens opened for the reception of one of their prophets; and celestial ministers in flaming fire, not of anger, but of love, sent to conduct him to the place of the blessed. But it is a demonstration to christians, and indeed the earnest and pledge of their inheritance, to see the great Author and Finisher of their faith, gradually and majestically rising through those vast regions which separate earth from heaven; and to hear the church triumphant summoning the gates of the palace of glory to be opened, to receive the King of Glory, on his coming to prepare mansions of bliss for their reception, when the days of their probation, are ended. "Such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens."
Enoch, Elijah, and Christ, in certain views, can be compared only with each other; but in all things, HE must have the pre-eminence. They prophesied through the power and virtue of the spirit given unto them; he is the giver of that spirit to them, and to all the prophets. As mere men, they must have had their infirmities, and the infirmities of one of them are upon record: but he knew infirmity only by a fellow feeling with the miserable, and he is the atonement for their sins. By the power and mercy of God, they were taken up into heaven; by his own power he ascended on high; they as servants, he as the eternal son of God. In them, we have a repeated instance of bodies glorified without suffering death; he "was dead, and is alive again," and carried to heaven a body which had been laid in the tomb. In them we have an object of admiration and astonishment; in him, a pattern for imitation, a Saviour in whom to trust, a ground of hope whereon to rest. Faith exempted them from death; and faith shall at length redeem all the followers of the Lamb from the power of the grave. Enoch and Elijah ascended as solitary individuals; Christ as the first-fruits of them that sleep: and "lifted up," is drawing an elect world unto him. They were admitted to regions unknown, and among society untried: he only returned to the place from whence he came.
We conclude the History of Enoch with this obvious, but we trust, not useless reflection-That those lives which deserve most to be had in remembrance,